Wednesday, December 21, 2016

GRAND BAZAAR since 1461

Istanbul - Turkey

GPS : 41°00'35.2"N 28°57'59.3"E / 41.009779, 28.966480

 photo grand_bazaar112.jpg


The Grand Bazaar is located inside the walled city of Istanbul, in the district of Fatih and in the neighborhood (Turkish: Mahalle) bearing the same name "Kapalıçarşı". It stretches roughly from west to east between the mosques of Beyazit and of Nuruosmaniye. The Bazaar can easily be reached from Sultanahmet and Sirkeci.

The Grand Bazaar (Kapalıçarşı) in Istanbul is one of the largest covered markets in the world with 60 streets and 5,000 shops, and attracts between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. It is well known for its jewellery, hand-painted ceramics, carpets, embroideries, spices and antique shops. Many of the stalls in the bazaar are grouped by type of goods, with special areas for leather, gold jewellery and the like.

The bazaar has been an important trading centre since 1461 and its labyrinthine vaults feature two bedestens (domed buildings), the first of which was constructed between 1455 and 1461 by the order of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. The bazaar was vastly enlarged in the 16th century, during the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, and in 1894 underwent a major restoration following an earthquake.

The complex houses two mosques, four fountains, two hamams, and several cafés and restaurants. In the centre is the high domed hall of the Cevahir Bedesten, where the most valuable items and antiques were to be found in the past, and still are today, including furniture, copperware, amber prayer beads, inlaid weapons, icons, moth er-of-pearl mirrors, water pipes, watches and clocks, candlesticks, old coins, and silver and gold jewellery set with coral and turquoise.


The covered bazaar is entered from four main gates located at the end of its two main streets, the north-south Yağlıkçılar (oil lamp makers) Street and the east-west Kalpakçılar (fur hat makers) Street, which intersect near the southwest corner of the bazaar. Kalpakçılar Street connects the Bayezid Mosque and Bayezid Square to the west with Nuruosmaniye Mosque to the east; the gates at these locations were added during the 1894 renovation and bear the royal monogram of Sultan Abdülhamid II. The gates allowed the entire bazaar to be closed down after work hours when watchmen hired by the guild surveyed its streets at night.


The construction of the future Grand Bazaar's core started during the winter of 1455-56, shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. Sultan Mehmet II had an edifice erected devoted to the trading of textiles. In its name, Cevâhir Bedestan (English: Gems Bedesten; but also in Ottoman Turkish: Bezzâzistan-i- cedîd, meaning in English: New Bedesten) the word "Bedesten" is an alteration of the Persian word bezestan (bedesten), derived from bez "cloth", and means "bazaar of the cloth sellers".

The building - named alternately in Turkish "İç" (English: Internal), "Atik" (English: Ancient), or "Eski" (English: Old) Bedesten - lies on the slope of the third hill of Istanbul, between the ancient Fora of Constantine and of Theodosius. It was also near the first Sultan's palace, the Old Palace (Turkish: Eski Sarayi), which was also in construction in those same years, and not far from the Artopoléia, a location already occupied in Byzantine times by the bakers.

The construction of the Bedesten ended in the winter of 1460-61, and the building was endowed to the waqf of the Aya Sofya Mosque. Analysis of the brickwork shows that most of the structure originates from the second half of the 15th century, although a Byzantine relief representing a Comnenian eagle, still enclosed on the top of the East gate (Turkish: Kuyumcular Kapısı) of the Bedesten has been used by several scholars as proof that the edifice was a Byzantine structure.

In a market near the Bedesten, named in Turkish Esir Pazarı, the slave trade was active in this zone also during the Byzantine Empire. Other important markets in the vicinity were the second-hand market (Turkish: Bit Pazarı),  the "Long Market" (Turkish: Uzun Çarşı), corresponding to the Greek "Makrós Émbolos", English: Long Arcade, a long porticoed mall stretching downhill from the Forum of Constantine to the Golden Horn, which was one of the main market areas of the city), while the old book market (Turkish: Sahaflar Çarşısı) was moved from the Bazaar to the present picturesque location near the Beyazid Mosque only after the earthquake of 1894.

Some years later - according to other sources, this occurred in 1545 under Sultan Süleyman I - Sultan Mehmet II had another covered market built, the Sandal Bedesten (the name comes from a kind of thread woven in Bursa which had the colour of sandalwood), also named "Küçük" (English: Little), "Cedit" or "Yeni" (both words meaning in English: New) Bedesten, which lay north of the first. After the erection of the Sandal Bedesten the trade in textiles moved there, while the Cevahir Bedesten was reserved for the trade in luxury goods.

At the beginning the two buildings were isolated: according to the 16th-century French traveller Pierre Gilles between them and the Mosque of Beyazid lay ruins of churches and a large cistern; but soon many sellers opened their shops between and around them, so that a whole quarter was born, devoted exclusively to commerce.

At the beginning of the seventeenth century the Grand Bazaar already had achieved its final shape. The enormous extent of the Ottoman Empire in three continents, and the total control of road communication between Asia and Europe, rendered the Bazaar and the surrounding Hans or caravanserais, the hub of the Mediterranean trade. According to several European travelers, at that time, and until the first half of the 19th century, the Market was unrivaled among the markets in Europe with regards to the abundance, variety and quality of the goods on sale.

At that time we know from European travelers that the Grand Bazaar had a square plan, with two perpendicular main roads crossing in the middle and a third road running along the outer perimeter. In the Bazaar there were 67 roads (each bearing the name of the sellers of a particular good), several squares used for the daily prayers, 5 mosques, 7 fountains, 18 gates which were opened each day in the morning and closed in the evening (from these comes the modern name of the Market, "Closed Market" (Turkish: Kapalıçarşı).

Around 1638 Turkish traveler Evliya Çelebi gave us the most important historical description of the Bazaar and of its customs. The number of shops amounted to 3,000, plus 300 located in the surrounding Hans, large Caravanserais with two or three storeys round a porticoed inner courtyard, where goods could be stored and merchants could be lodged. In that period one tenth of the shops of the city were concentrated in the market and around it. For all that, at that time the market was not yet covered.

Recurrent calamities, fires and earthquakes, hit the Grand Bazaar. The first fire occurred in 1515; another one happened in 1548. Other fires ravaged the complex in 1588, 1618 (when the Bit Pazarı was destroyed), 1645, 1652, 1658, 1660 (on that occasion the whole city was devastated) 1687, 1688 (great damage occurred to the Uzun Çarşı) 1695, 1701. The fire of 1701 was particularly fierce, forcing in 1730-31 Grand Vizier Nevşehirli Damad Ibrahim Pasha to rebuild several parts of the complex. In 1738 the Kızlar Aĝası Beşir Ağa endowed the Fountain (still existing) near Mercan Kapısı.

In this period, because of the new law against fires issued in 1696, several parts of the market which lied between the two Bedesten were covered with vaults. Despite that, other fires ravaged the complex in 1750 and 1791. The quake of 1766 caused more damages, which were repaired by Court Chief Architect (Turkish: Hassa baş Mimarı) Ahmet a year later.

In 19th century, the growth of the textile industry in western Europe, the introduction of mass production methods, the Capitulations signed between the Empire and many European countries and the forestalling - always by European merchants - of the raw materials needed to produce goods in the Empire's closed Economy, were factors which all together provoked the decadence of the Market. By 1850, rents in Bedesten were ten times lower than two to three decades before.

Moreover, the birth of a west-oriented bourgeoisie and the commercial success of the western products pushed the merchants belonging to the minorities (Greek, Armenian, Jewish) for moving out of Bazaar, perceived as antiquated, and for opening new shops in quarters frequented by Europeans, as Pera and Galata.

According to a 1890 survey, in the Bazaar were active 4,399 shops, 2 Bedesten, 2195 rooms, 1 Hamam, one mosque, 10 Medrese, 19 fountains (among them two Şadırvan and one Sebil), one Mausoleum and 24 Han. In the 30.7 hectares of the complex, protected by 18 gates, there are 3,000 shops along 61 streets, the 2 Bedesten, 13 Han (plus several more outside).

The last major catastrophe happened in 1894, and was due to the strong earthquake which rocked Istanbul in that year. The Minister of Public Works, Mahmud Celaleddin Paşa, supervised the repair of the damaged Bazaar until 1898, and on this occasion the complex was reduced in area. To the west, the Bit Pazarı was left outside the new perimeter and became an open-sky road, named Çadırcılar Caddesi (English: Tentmaker Road), while the old gate and the Kürkçüler Kapısı were demolished. Among all the Hans which belonged to the Market, many were left outside, and only 9 remained enclosed in the structure.

In 1914 the Sandal Bedesten, whose handlers of textile goods had been ruined by the European competition, was acquired by the city of Istanbul and, starting one year later, was used as an auction house, mainly for carpets. In 1927 the individual parts of the bazaar and the streets got official names. The last fires of bazaar happened in 1943 and 1954, and the related restorations were finished on 28 July 1959. The last restoration of the complex took place in 1980. In that occasion were also removed the advertising posters which defaced the market.


The Iç Bedesten has a rectangular plan (43.30 m x 29.50 m). Two rows of stone piers, four in each row, sustain three rows of bays, five in each row. Each bay is surmounted by a brick dome with blind drum. In the inner and in the outer walls have been built 44 cellars (Turkish: Mahzen), vaulted rooms without external openings. The sunlight in Bedesten comes from rectangular windows placed right under the roof: they can be accessed through a wooden ambulatory.

Due to the scarce illumination, the edifice was kept open only some hours each day, and was devoted to the trade of luxury goods, above all textiles.  Moreover, the Bedesten's Mahzen were also used as safes. The building can be accessed through four gates: Second-hand book sellers Gate (Turkish: Sahaflar Kapısı) at North, Skullcap sellers Gate (Turkish: Takkeciler Kapısı) at South, Jewellers Gate (Turkish: Kuyumcular Kapısı) at East and Woman clothes Seller Gate (Turkish: Zenneciler Kapısı) at West.

The Sandal Bedesten has also a rectangular plan (40.20 m x 42.20 m), with 12 stone piers bearing 20 bays surmounted by brick domes with blind drum. In this case shops are carved only in the outer walls. In both edifices, each bay is tied to the others through brick arches tied by juniper beams, and masonry is made with rubble. Both buildings were closed by Iron gates.

Aside the Bedesten, originally the Grand Bazaar structures were built with wood, and only after the 1700 fire, they were rebuilt in stone and brickwork, and covered. All the bazaar edifices, except the fur dealers market (Turkish: Kürkçüler Çarsısı), a later addition which is two-story, are one story. The roofs are mainly covered with tiles, while the part burnt in 1954 uses now tarmac. In the bazaar no artificial light was foreseen, also to prevent fires, and smoking was strictly prohibited.

The roads outside the inner Bedesten are roughly parallel to it. Anyway, the damages caused by the many fires and quakes along the centuries, together with the repairs done without a general plan, gave to the market - especially in its Western part - a picturesque appearance, with its maze of roads and lanes crossing each other at various angles.

Social history of the Grand Bazaar

Until the restoration following the quake of 1894, the grand Bazaar had no shops as we know them in the western world: along both sides of the roads merchants sat on wooden divans in front of their shelves. Each of them got a space 6 to 8 feet (1.8 to 2.4 m) in length, and 3 to 4 feet (0.91 to 1.2 m) in depth. The name of this space was in Turkish Dolap, meaning stall.  The most precious stuff was not on display, but kept in cabinets. Only clothes were hanged in long rows, with a picturesque effect. A prospective client could sit in front of the dealer, talk with him and drink a tea or a turkish coffee, in a totally relaxed way.

At the end of the day, each stall was closed with drapes. Another peculiarity was the totally lack of advertising. Moreover, as everywhere in the East, traders of the same type of good were forcibly concentrated along one road, which got its name from their profession. The inner Bedesten hosted the most precious wares: jewelers, armorers, crystal dealers had their shops there. The Sandal Bedesten was mainly the center of the silk trade, but also other goods were on sale there.

The most picturesque parts of the market were - aside the two Bedesten - the shoe market (Turkish: Pabuççular Pazarı), where thousands of shoes of different colors (Turks were bound to wear only yellow shoes, Greeks blue, Jews black and Armenian red) were on display on high shelves,  the spice and herbs market (later concentrated in the Egyptian Bazaar), which stood near the jewelers, the armor and weapon market, the old book market and the flea market.

This kind of organization disappeared gradually, although nowadays a concentration of the same business along certain roads can be observed again :
Jewelers and gold bracelets along Kalpakçılar Caddesi, Gold bracelets along Kuyumcular Çarşısı, Furniture along Divrikli Caddesi, Carpets along Sahaflar Caddesi, Leather goods along Perdahçılar Caddesi, Leather and casual clothes at the Bit Pazarı.

Actually, the main reason of concentrating the trade in one place was to provide the highest security against theft, fire and uprising. The goods in the Bedesten were guaranteed against everything except turmoils. Gates were always closed at night, and the bazaar was patrolled by guards paid by the merchants' guilds. In order to access the complex during night hours, an imperial edict was required. The only official night opening during the story of Bazaar occurred during the feast organized for the return of Sultan Abdülaziz from Egypt, when the Sovereign crossed the illuminated market riding an horse among the rejoicing populace.

Despite the immense wealth present in the Bazaar during centuries (still around 1870, according to an English traveler a tour of the inner Bedesten could easily ruin a few Rothschild families), thievery occurred extremely seldom. The most important happened in 1591, when 30,000 gold coins (Turkish: Altın) were stolen in the old Bedesten. The fact shocked the whole Istanbul. The Bazaar remained closed for two weeks and people were tortured, until the money was found hidden under the floor matting. The culprit was a young Persian, seller of Musk. Thanks to the intercession of the Sultan Murad III he was executed by hanging and not by torture.

The ethics of trade in the Market until the Tanzimat age (half of the 19th century) was quite different from the modern one: indifference to profit, absence of envy in the successes of other traders and a single and correct price were peculiar traits of the Ottoman bazaar during its golden age. The reason for such behavior lies partly in the ethics of Islam, and partly in the guild system which provided a strong social security net to the merchants. Afterward, the westernization of the Ottoman society and the influence of the national minorities caused the introduction of the mercantile ethics in the Ottoman society.

Right during the westernization of the Ottoman Society, the Grand Bazaar became an obliged topos of the romantic literature. We owe fascinating descriptions of the Bazaar at the middle of 19th century to writers as Edmondo De Amicis and Théophile Gautier.

Another peculiarity of the market during the Ottoman age was the total lack of restaurants. The absence of women in the social life and the nomadic conventions in the Turkish society made the concept of restaurant alien. Merchants brought their lunch in a food box called sefertas, and the only food on sale was simple dishes such as doner kebab, tavuk göğsü (a dessert prepared with chicken breast, milk sugar and rose water sprinkled on it) and Turkish coffee. This simple dishes were prepared and served in small two-story kiosks placed in the middle of a road.

The most famous among these kiosks is the one - still existing but not functioning anymore - placed at the crossing of Halıcılar Caddesi and Acı Çesme Caddesi. It is alleged that Sultan Mahmut II came there often in disguise to eat his pudding. The Bazaar was in the Ottoman Age the place where the Istanbullu (so are named the inhabitants of the city) could see each other. Not only the market was the only place in town where the ladies could go relatively easily, (and this circumstance made the place especially interesting for the Europeans who visited the city) but - especially from the Tanzimat age - was also the only public place where the average citizen had a chance to meet casually the members of the Harem and of the Court.

Bazaar's merchants were organized in guilds. In order to establish a new one, it was only necessary to have enough traders of the same good. Afterward, a monopoly was formed and the number of traders and shops was frozen. One could only be accepted in the guild through cooptation, either as son of a deceased member, or after paying a suitable sum to a member who wanted to retire. The guild's chef was a public officer called Kethüda. He was paid by the guild but appointed by the Kadı of Istanbul.

Fixation of prices and taxes were matter of the Kethüda. He was joined by a representative of the guild's member, called Yiğitbaşı (in English: Chief of the brave young fellows). These two officers were flanked by the assembly of the eldest, non necessarily old in age, but most experienced traders. Parallel to the guilds, there were purely religious organizations, called fütüvvet tariks. Their members met in Dervish monasteries and performed religious functions.

These organizations became less and less important with time due to the increased weight of the Greek, Armenian and Jews merchants in bazaar's trade. Each guild had a financial department which collected a moderate monthly fee (some silver coins; Turkish: Kuruş) from the members and administered it taking care of the needs of each associated person. The guilds lost increasingly their importance during the Tanzimat period, and were abolished in 1913, being replaced by an association of Bazaar merchants. Nowadays, there are several merchant associations in the Bazaar, but none is representative of the whole seller community.

The covered bazaar has a number of small mosques (mescit), all built above ground level and historic sabils and fountains on significant routes and intersections. Some market hans, including the Astarcı Hanı, Büyük Safran Hanı, Küçük Safran Hanı, Evliya Hanı, Sarraf Hanı, Mercan Ağa Hanı, Zincirli Han, Varakçı Hanı, Rabia Hanı, Kuyumcular Hanı and Yarım Taş Hanı, are entered solely from within the covered bazaar.


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